2006 Great Home Design: Antique Furniture

Seven local dealers who know antique furniture.

By: Cathy Alter

Brockett's Row
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In her light-filled, gallerylike space, owner Elizabeth Wainstein specializes in very fine American and English furniture from the Federal and Regency periods, late 18th and early 19th century.

She recently pointed out an early-19th-century New York–made mahogany dining table with brass claw feet and column-turned legs ($135,000). Open to its full length of 164 inches, the table seats 14. Also for sale recently: a mid-18th-century Philadelphia highboy ($39,000); it had once belonged to Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Brockett’s Row, the Atrium Building, 277 S. Washington St., Alexandria; 703-684-0464; brockettsrow.com.

Dada Decorative Arts
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Carter Anderson and Pixie Windsor have created an atmosphere of whimsy in their Adams Morgan shop. Chances are you’ll not only be welcomed by Jasmine, Anderson’s Dalmatian, you’ll also be greeted with sensory overload.

Take, for instance, “Uncle Sam the Muffler Man,” a six-foot sculpture—seven if you raise his arm—crafted from mufflers and exhaust pipes and painted, naturally, red and white ($2,100). “I like big, absurd things,” says Anderson, who knocked on the door of a southern Jersey auto shop and handed over a wad of cash to get the folksy piece. The store also offers a super selection of steel desks, dressers, and doctor’s cabinets from the 19th century through the 1950s; prices range from $400 to $2,600.

Dada Decorative Arts, 1814 Adams Mill Rd., NW; 202-387-3232; dadadecorativearts.com.

Darrell Dean
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If Willy Wonka had an antiques shop, this would be it. Dean has an aesthete’s eye and a kook’s sensibility. To wit, the massive 1920s French aviary ($3,200) that could house every bird in a 30-mile radius of Dean’s Georgetown store.

Dean’s genius is mixing in the unexpected, like a Karl Springer sculptural brass bench from the 1970s ($2,600), with the conventional—a neoclassical Italian settee that, with a removable back, doubles as a daybed ($9,600). Dean manages to find the impossible, as evident from the aviary and an unusually long 19th-century French worktable ($8,000) that dwarfs your typical farm table.

Darrell Dean, 1524 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-333-6330; darrelldeanantiques.com.

Gore Dean
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Deborah Gore Dean has no relation to Darrell, but the two do share a discerning eye.

In her new Cady’s Alley location since May, Gore Dean makes the most of her 12,000-square-foot space, which reflects what she does best: mixing styles, eras, and proportions that shouldn’t go together but do. An acrylic chair ($3,000) looks exactly right next to a Louis XVI–style painted fauteuil chair ($5,400). “That’s how people live now,” says Gore Dean. People can also live in Gore Dean’s own line of couches and chairs. Prices are $700 to $6,000.

Gore Dean, 3338 M St., Georgetown; 202-625-9199; goredean.com.

Grant Antiques
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In the world of antiques, a bargain is relative. At Grant you may not experience the same sticker shock as at comparable places, but it’s not cheap.

A Louis XVI secretary, circa 1780, was recently marked down—from $7,500 to $4,500. A rare and totally cool 1920s exercise bench, covered in fawn-color leather, would make a terrific coffee table. When you consider you’ll probably never see another like it, it’s worth the $3,500. Ditto the 1950 French garden stools that resemble tree stumps ($450 each). The shop is beautifully arranged, and part of the fun is wandering.

Grant Antiques, 4835 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 301-215-9292; grantantiques.com.

Miller & Arney Antiques
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If your family didn’t will you its Chippendale secretary, chances are you’ll find one here. In business since 1973, Miller & Arney has the sort of serious 19th- and 18th-century antiques that would make the Keno brothers—those towheaded twins from Antiques Roadshow—hyperventilate.

The two-floor shop gleams with polished wood. From an 1830 English Regency mahogany sofa table ($4,600) to a French cherry cupboard decorated with chinoiserie brass fittings ($7,500), these are pieces meant to be enjoyed. “Things here are useful and beautiful,” says Joe Miller, pointing to an American 1790 tall case clock ($35,000).

Miller & Arney Antiques, 1737 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-338-2369; millerarney.com.

Susquehanna Antique Company
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Founded in 1913 by his grandfather, David Friedman’s Susquehanna Antiques has been in its current location since 1990, and Friedman is considered the dealer among dealers.

His dimly lit store is a repository of 18th- and 19th-century English, American, and Continental furniture. Known for a fine collection of dining tables—like an unusually long, three-pedestal mahogany table from 1850 ($8,400)—Susquehanna also boasts a unique collection of early-19th-century gaming tables. Not into playing games? A George III mahogany game table, painted with delicate flowers ($2,200), could double as an end table, as could one from the same period that’s beautifully finished with a curving serpentine edge ($4,500).

Susquehanna Antique Company, 3216 O St., Georgetown; 202-333-1511; susquehannaantiques.com.

Five More Notable Antique Shops (online-only content)
In the March issue, writer Cathy Alter chose her seven favorite shops for buying antique furniture. Here are five more she recommends:

ACANTHUS ANTIQUES
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Karen and Lawrence Perlmutter have made the most of their small space, filling it with glass cases of jewelry and other smalls, but it is their collection of ladies’ writing desks that are the true gems. A circa 1790 George III inlaid mahogany desk stands on the most delicate legs, it’s a wonder they’ve stood for all this time ($17,500).

Acanthus Antiques, 4132 Howard Ave., Kensington; 301-530-9600; www.acanthusantiques.com.

DAVID BELL ANTIQUES
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Bell has an eagle’s eye and a poet’s soul. Practically everything he sells is special—and evokes a romantic, tragic, and aristocratic past. Imagine the king who sat on the hyperbolic thronelike chair ($2,800), his hands hanging over the chair’s intricately carved arm rests. Or Heathcliff and Catherine, taking a breather from the moors in a pair of olive-colored campaign chairs ($850).

David Bell Antiques, 1655 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-965-2355.

GAINES McHALE
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Gaines McHale gathers up fine antiques from England, France, and Denmark, loads them up in 45-foot containers, and hoists them all onto a ship bound for Baltimore. It’s a good thing the company has a new 17,000-square-foot store in which to display these pieces, along with a new line of custom furniture.

“We try and provide the best things possible while keeping the price within reason,” says manager Scott McHale. The new store features a wine bar and beer on tap, for those who favor Budweiser with their Biedermeier.

Gaines McHale, 700 S. Caroline St., Baltimore; 410-625-1900; gainesmchale.com.

JEAN PIERRE ANTIQUES
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What’s good enough for Oprah is good enough for you. According to Jean Pierre Sarfati, the Queen of TV recently sent her decorator in to buy a painted armoire for her LA home. Sarfati travels to France four times a year and fills his store with 18th- and 19th-century tables and chairs, settees, and delicately painted furniture. He also buys old armchairs in France and has them reupholstered in fabric that’s the same orange as a Hermès box; pairs cost $2,200 to $2,800.

Jean Pierre Antiques, 2601 P St., Georgetown; 202-337-1731.

RIVER HOUSE ANTIQUES
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Owner Diane Monash is not bothered by a little paint loss. She specializes in unusual, primitive furniture—which translates into rough-hewn, weathered wood with paint that has seen better days. That’s the charm of River House, where you can find tables that originally came from a camp in Maine or a rare collection of pie safes that has attracted the likes of Laura Bush.